Talks to end the protests in Colombia were suspended on Sunday by decision of the National Unemployment Committee (CNP), made up of trade union and social organizations, after accusing the government of “delaying” the negotiation of structural reforms in the country.
“The person most responsible for what happened is, without a doubt, President (Iván) Duque and the government he presides over. His desire to embrace the orientation of not negotiating with the CNP, drawn up by his party and the parties that accompany him, thus shows its results, ”the Committee said in a statement.
The unsuccessful negotiations between the parties take place when the country completes 40 days of protests against the reforms and government policies, during which time at least 48 deaths have been registered, more than 2,300 injured -between civilians and police-, disappearances and complaints of alleged sexual abuse.
The government denied the accusations and was ready to resume dialogue with the CNP, which represents part of the thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets throughout the country.
However, he stressed as his main requirement the end of the road blockades that have prevented the passage of medical supplies and food, generating shortages in some areas of the country.
A part of the road blockades, which have totaled more than 3,000 during the protests, have been lifted after the intervention of the public forces and at the call of the Committee.
“We are not procrastinating, we have acted with all the diligence in the world. The team that the president made up responds directly to him, the proof is that the day we followed the methodology that we had agreed upon, we advanced by 16 points and it was the next day when they surprisingly said that this was not going fast enough,” he told The Associated Press the presidential advisor Emilio Archila, spokesman for the government in the negotiations.
The CNP announced that it will evaluate the continuity of the negotiations carried out with the government, after two weeks of extensive work days in which they sought to reach minimum agreements that would allow a formal negotiation of substantive issues such as health, education and the economy.
To move forward, the Committee requests that the government sign a document with minimum guarantees for the exercise of the protest agreed on May 24 and also repeal the decree that authorized the military deployment in some areas of the country to contain sources of violence derived from the protests.
However, Archila assured that the decree corresponds to a measure of public order and “has nothing to do with the guarantees for those who protest peacefully”, because when “there is violence, the protests are no longer peaceful.”
Regarding the document, the government considers that it was a “draft” that was always subject to review by both parties. “In particular, it needed to include that Colombians should not suffer the dire consequences of the blockades,” he said in a statement.
According to Archila, the government will continue with the territorial negotiation tables with which it has advanced in recent days as a way to de-escalate the crisis.
“The government had already been working, the different voices have been heard, I listened to the victims’ platforms and with them we reached an agreement and it is already being implemented,” he added.
Citizen pressure exerted in the streets has managed to get the government to withdraw a tax reform that affects the country’s lower and middle class with higher taxes, the failure of a health reform in Congress and the resignation of three high-ranking officials of the government.
Faced with the constant demand of the protesters to reform the police and even eliminate the anti-riot agents, President Iván Duque will present to Congress a project that aims to achieve a “comprehensive transformation of the Police”, which was not agreed with the Committee.
The police are at the center of the complaints: there are 13 disciplinary investigations open at the Attorney General’s Office for alleged homicide, 88 for abuse of authority and 2 for alleged sexual harassment. The NGO Temblores, which tracks police abuse, reported more than 3,700 cases of violence against protesters.
The project proposes the creation of a Human Rights Directorate and “very strict regulation” to limit the commercialization, carrying and use of traumatic weapons, after several episodes in which armed civilians fired at protesters in full view of the police without be caught. For these events, the Military Criminal Justice linked seven policemen to an investigation.
The suspension of the talks takes place on the eve of the beginning of the formal visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to Colombia in which it will verify the complaints of human rights violations, receive testimonies from the victims, government reports and It will serve representative sectors of civil society.
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